Why Success Ruins

by Mark Votava

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I have struggled in my life with the “real world” of ambition and success.  Maybe I don’t have much desire to be wealthy and powerful.  I think there is much more to life than this.  I often times think, “Did Jesus really care very much about ambition and success, than why should I?”

  • Living for personal economic gain versus relational connection

The call of opportunity tends to push us away from one another in the parish.  When we live more for personal economic gain rather than for relational connecting with one another in the place that we inhabit, we have lost our balance.  We are going to have a hard fall if we do not change our ways.  Our bonds are broken when we fail to nourish a discernment around simplicity.

  • So quickly gone whenever something better comes along

With our eyes fixed on new and better financial opportunities, we live into a transience that uproots us every couple of years.  We never stay in a place long enough to develop relationships of care.  We never learn to see God through others because we are so quickly gone whenever something we perceive as better comes along.

  • The effects of our ambition and success

We need to really reflect on the effects of our ambition and success on those around us.  Do we have the courage to replace it with a simplicity that draws us closer together as the body of Christ in the parish?  Ambition and success communicate that we do not need one another.  We can make it on our own.

  • Refusing to depend on anyone

We don’t need to depend on anyone because we make our own things happen.  This is an illusion.  This kind of thinking and acting pulls us apart from one another in the parish.  We begin to lose our souls

  • Being ripped apart

The body of Christ has been ripped apart by ambition and success.  They are anything but countercultural.  The communal imagination calls us out of this and into something more holistic.

  • Becoming hyper-individualists

Bill McKibben writes in his book Deep Economy, “We don’t need each other for anything anymore.  If we have enough money, we’re insulated from depending on those around us – which is at least as much a loss as a gain.”  He goes on to say, “Our affluence isolates us ever more.  We are not just individualists; we are hyper-individualists such as the world has never known.”

  • The lust for affluence is psychotic

The worst kinds of injustices are done to others in the name of ambition and success.  When we attach our imaginations and our identity to this way of being, we bring a lot of destruction down upon ourselves and others.  “We really must understand,” Quaker Richard J. Foster says, “that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic.  It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality.”

Why is ambition and success so important to us?